Meisner’s exercises challenge us to come up with extremely meaningful imaginary circumstances that blend an element of truth and an element of the imaginary from our lives. This process helps us explore what “living truthfully under imaginary circumstances” really means and develops our actor’s imagination. We call this step of the work “going into the extreme.”
At first, going into the extreme is difficult. Coming up with extremely meaningful imaginary circumstances isn’t something we’re used to doing because many of us don’t often let ourselves think in extremes. It’s uncomfortable to think of THE BEST, THE WORST, THE MOST EXCITING, THE MOST TERRIFYING possibilities of our lives. For many of us, it’s also difficult to know where to start when coming up with a meaningful circumstance. In our day to day lives people don’t usually ask us to decide what’s meaningful, specifically, to us. Sure we all have things that are supposed to be meaningful in our lives like family, relationships, careers but how often do we decide what specifically about those relationships make them meaningful? And then how often do we use our imagination to help that specific element of that relationship to be taken to the most extreme place, a place that’s irreversible, a place that either confirms our worst fear or makes our biggest dream come true?
And then once we’ve set up our extremely meaningful imaginary circumstances we must take that sense of meaning and truth and share the experience and inner life flowing from the extremely meaningful circumstance, not the circumstance itself, with our scene partner and our audience. This is a deeply vulnerable act and it takes courage to really lean into the unknown possibility of that moment.
With the events surrounding COVID-19, it’s been much easier to dig into what’s truly meaningful for all of us. Under this real extreme circumstance we know exactly what people and communities we love most and isolated from them we remember the little details that make up the reasons why they’re so meaningful to us. Faced with our uncertain future laced with anxiety, this moment can also remind us to use our imagination to revel in the possibilities of love, laughter, and connection we’ll get to experience once this is over. And just like going into the extreme, we’re all faced with the deep uncertainty of this moment and we must act courageously in defense of the millions of lives, jobs, communities and families that are in jeopardy to preserve the deeply meaningful dream of a hopeful future.
Take care, wash your hands, stay home if you can, and know you’re not alone in this fight.